By Gideon Chukwuemeka Ogbonna
When we think, speak of love, we speak of a beautiful thing; a throb in our chest; a buttery feeling in our stomach that sometimes come with a fair share of pain. But it is said love is patient. And patience ought to be rewarded with beauty, happiness, satisfaction, peace – a fair reward for this pain. But when love defies what makes it desirable, what makes it love, we are left with one question – why?
And “why?” was the question Tyler Perry’s Acrimony left on our tongues, together with racing hearts, heightened emotions, and silence. The movie raced through our hearts and left a backwash of emotions, like fumes from an exhaust, which seeped into us, and rendered us a mess of many feelings – anger, sadness, pity, confusion. Acrimony.
Many (me not inclusive) have felt hate towards the movie, its writers. Tyler Perry. For throwing us the puzzle – whose fault was it that Melinda Gayle (Taraji P. Henson) ended up beneath the cold arms of sea, dead; having been dragged by the anchor of a yacht named Gayle? We desperately want to solve this puzzle so that our scattered emotions can find peace. But solving this is a hard thing – Acrimony is a balanced and complicated movie where all characters were victims of circumstances and human frailties, hence their actions and reactions had one common feature – validity. And because of this validity, I will not blame anyone with this piece. I will only x-ray the clues left by Tyler Perry and find solace in the knowledge that Acrimony is only a movie, fiction.
Clues to this puzzle start with young Melinda (Ajiona Alexus). Young, beautiful, college girl filled with innocence and a temper that could not be doused by rainfall. Because if it could, if it did, maybe she would not have had the slight altercation with young Robert (Antonio Madison). The guy who wove his way into her life with good looks, intelligence, and dreams of a patented invention and changed her life. Little wonder she said, the devil sure knows how to put a package together.
And Melinda, seduced by the packages of the devil, decided to eat with him with anything other than a long spoon. But isn’t that what love does:
i. to make you daring: on a platter of Nina Simone, she gave him her virginity. Blamed it on a man that could take advantage of a girl’s grief (for she had just lost her mother).
ii. to make you selfless: with the life insurance policy of $350,000 left for her by her mother, she bought him a car, supported his dreams.
iii. to make you bitter: for when he cheated on her with young Diana (Shavon Kirksey), she rammed into his shack with her car. Destroyed the shack. His car. Her ovaries.
iv. to make you foolish: she spent all of the $350,000 on him. A foolishness she hoped would be rewarded when his invention hit.
And it was rewarded, albeit too late.
Robert (Lyriq Bent) was a man of patience who held on tenaciously to his dreams. Wrote countlessly to Prescott, a company who sought for people with great ideas, to give him a chance to show them how his battery worked; how he could solve the energy crisis of the world; to make them invest in his project. Made videos of the pilot process of his work. Saw with his mind’s eyes the validity of his dreams. Promised Melinda an engagement ring with three diamonds, a house on the top floor overlooking the sea, and a luxury yacht named after her – Mrs. Gayle. But as with most dreams, these things took a long time (up to 18 years) to come to pass. Things became more complex when Robert had to resort to Diana (Crystle Stewart) who held a top position at Prescott to give his dreams tangibility, life.
This maddened Brenda and June (Ptosha Storey and Jazmyn Simon); sisters to Melinda who were only looking out for her. Ladies who didn’t see any reason for their sister to continue with a black, devious, cheating never-do-well. Ladies who wanted her happiness and wellbeing, hence supported her divorce. A divorce which she, Melinda, regretted later. A divorce which drove her mad because Robert’s invention hit with the help of Diana; because he chose to settle – wealth, house, yacht, and all – with Diana; because, according to her, Robert could not fight for her; he was too quick and weak to sign the divorce papers.
However, when it comes to fighting for love, I believe that it takes two people to fight. Hence, I will not be quick to blame Robert who was defeated by her frustrated patience and anger. To him, what was the use fighting when he could not win. And why did she talk about fighting? Because he gave her a cheque of $10,000,000 as a payback for all she did for him? Because she couldn’t imagine another woman with him; he spoiling her with gifts, exploring the contours of her wet body in the shower, and cuddling her after passionate lovemaking?
But still what was Melinda to do? For her, 18 years and more is a long and enough time for patience to thrive, to be rewarded. And some rewards go beyond money. Robert might have rewarded her financially, but that whooping sum could not rid her off the psychological and emotional trauma he, through his cheating and delayed dreams, put her through.
Though it seems my words tend to flow in the direction of heaping all the blames on Melinda, and exonerating Robert, it is not my intent. It will be difficult writing this without exploring her mistakes; mistakes which were made out of an innocent and loving heart. And love is a beautiful thing. So I am here still asking myself why Melinda never enjoyed this beauty. Why?